Posts Tagged ‘Victor Vaca’

This weekend a number of us who had participated in mission trips to Ecuador over the years gathered for a reunion. The impetus for our gathering was the death of friend Victor Vaca, who passed only a couple of years after his wife and our friend, Violet. We gathered to remember them and what we we shared together. All of that reminded me of a story out of Victor’s life.

Victor was a native Ecuadorian married to a true Minnesotan. They served for decades together among the poorest of Ecuador’s people. But early on they were appointed by our Division of Overseas Ministry to Paraguay. This was in the 1970s in a particularly volatile time. A right wing military government was in power, much like in Chile, and the death squads were rampant. Victor and Violet had the opportunity to get out but they decided to stay – for the sake of those they served.

In the midst of that political environment anyone who worked for and with the poor – to advocate for their rights and better conditions, challenging the oppressive system that kept the powerful in power – were seen as seditionists. The last thing that fascists want is the poor to be empowered enough to speak and organize. And so those working with the poor automatically became targets of the military government.

One night there was a knock at the door. They knew it come anytime and it finally did. They hauled Victor away and while Violet was guarded they ransacked the house. She was informed that if she wanted to see her husband again she would keep her mouth shut. But Violet called the head of DOM at the time, Bill Nottingham, and before you know it, he traveled to Paraguay to attempt to secure Victor’s release. Mostly he wanted the government officials to know that people knew Victor was detained. Many were simply disappearing during that time so that step was crucial.

In detention and interrogation they attempted to intimidate Victor with many accusations and threats. But he held firm through the entire ordeal. Eventually his release was secured, but no one really knew until it finally happened.

The moment of truth for Victor and Violet was their decision to stay, not leave. They could have done so and no one would have blamed them, not at all. And with that decision unknown consequences came, though they knew the risks.

Perhaps you and I have not or will not face that kind of dramatic decision that requires that kind of courage. But each one will make fundamental decisions and decisive turns in the road. These decisions will require courage, grace, forgiveness, and trust. The gauntlet through Jerusalem was precarious, as Jesus knew. And such are the passages we make, day by day and year by year. Faith, hope and love go a long way. In the end our moment of truth calls for a decision, one for which we are rarely prepared until it arrives. God bless you as you stare it down during its next visit.

From left to right - Victor Vaca, Kathy Carson, Tim Carson, Segundo Morales

From left to right – Victor Vaca, Kathy Carson, Tim Carson, Segundo Morales

I first met Victor over twenty-five years ago while serving in Camdenton, Missouri. He and his wife Violet had served for years as our Global Mission staff in Ecuador. Victor was native Ecuadoran and Violet was a northerner from Minnesota. They met in Imbabura as Violet taught in a religious school. Talking to Violet about that heady time in her life she said, “Oh, you’ve got to watch out for those Latins. He hired a band and came and serenaded me beneath my window!” Victor and Violet served for years in Ecuador, primarily investing their time and energies with the indigenous peoples.

When Victor and Violet were on furlough and visiting congregations I spent time with them. Before you know it I was visiting Ecuador, representing our region as the moderator. Kathy often went with me. It was the first of many, many trips made to that impoverished and enchanted land. Numerous congregational mission trips and additional furloughs in the states made for a long-term friendship.

The Vacas were my first real mentors and teachers in the developing world and its concerns. They gently educated me about indigenous communities, the history that those in the north do not reference, and the ways to avoid the worst of paternalism and colonialism. And they demonstrated time after time what real hospitality looks like.

Victor taught me that the Gospel is holistic – that God cares about the whole person in all dimensions. He demonstrated how liberation theology grew from the people and their faith and how the social circumstance of a person shapes and limits their world. And he created an approach to church and missional life in which there was no distance between singing to Jesus from the heart and striving after justice.

Not too long ago Victor laid his beloved Violet – Violetta – to rest. Understandably, he was never quite the same after that. His grief was so heavy and loneliness for her so deep. And now he goes to his rest to be with her. We hear that in that kingdom they will come from the north and south, east and west and all sit at table with the Lord. They already had a foretaste of that in life. Now it’s a feast.